ORANGE COUNTY, N.C. — A multi-county theft ring that investigators believe operated for more than a decade out of Orange County is out of business, according to county authorities.
Investigators arrested and charged Mitch Dillard and Cindy Dillard with breaking and entering. They believe the couple cased construction sites and residential areas in Person, Orange and Durham counties and stole equipment.
The Dillards then turned the stolen goods over to another man, James Underwood, who has not yet been charged, investigators said.
Authorities said they found the stolen tools at Underwood's home on Schley Road, and believe Underwood had been selling and renting out stolen tools for the past 15 years. Underwood, however, said he never knew the items were stolen.
"It's a helpless feeling," said Joe Coates, who was robbed five times. "You show up every morning (to work) and your stuff is gone."
Fed up, Coates said he put in a surveillance camera and ended up helping investigators solve the case. The Dillards were caught on tape, police said.
"He came up and started working on the locks, and 10 minutes later, his wife came in," Coates said.
Officers say they hope to get the tens of thousands of dollars of tools and construction equipment back to their rightful owners.
"We have to sort through all the stuff to determine what's stolen and what's not," said Investigator Tina Painter of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.